Looking at the latest events taking place in our country, I can’t tell if it is two elephants fighting, an elephant fighting against itself or a group of elephants gone haywire. All I know is that whatever these elephants are doing; the idiom’s warning still rings true: it is the grass that suffers.
Here is bit of context, incase you are wondering how elephants and democracy mix together. Whereas it is true that African elephants are now an endangered species due relentless ivory poaching, today I am speaking about different kind of elephants: all those occupying our political space, entrusted with the running of our country.
For the past two years, it seems every month births a new crisis or we get spooked with more rotting skeletons crawling out into our political space. There is simply no time to process one set of shocking developments before another one is thrown at us. Indeed we are a resilient people, having survived the brutality of the apartheid regime et al, but seriously how much can one country take before the seams of our social and mental fabric starts to come apart?
One minute racism rears its divisive plots, then our state institutions/public enterprises are found to be dysfunctional, then there are allegations of massive financial looting and “state capture”. While we are flipping through our dictionaries to find what that even means, various protest marches pop up, intra and inter political party factions emerge, investigations of ministers loom, calls for change of leadership grow louder and the rand plunges deeper. The elephants are fighting.
As all these stand-offs unfold, the attention is focused on how investors and markets are affected by the yo-yo diet that is our politics. Little attention is paid to us mere mortals on the ground and how we are affected.
We are the grass that suffers; trampled economically, politically and psychologically.
Our minds stew in anxiety. Will we lose our savings? Are we becoming another failed African state? Is this the making of a civil war? Should we seek greener-pastures? Will we still be able to afford the bare necessities of life? What kind of a country will our children inherit?
There are more questions and fewer answers or reassurances.
Clearly our democracy is unravelling and no one knows where the constant stand-offs will lead to or what is going to shock us next. I had wanted to write and appeal that the political giants stop and consider how this is impacting the psyche and the quality of life of us ordinary people.
Then I remembered that I don’t know of any place or situation where emotional appeals have changed the minds and actions of anyone addicted to power and self-interest. If anything, it only entrenches and justifies their saviour-syndrome where more damage is done and blood gets spilled in the name of protecting the poor and the vulnerable. If you listen to the rhetoric of all political parties, you will hear the same lame chorus about “our people” (as if anyone owns people) or “the poor masses”.
So, should the grass just close its eyes and take all the trampling silently and accept it as the fate of the laws of the jungle?
I am reminded of a book title by one of my mentors; “When the sleeping grass awakens”. In the book, the author asserts that sleeping grass gets awakened by fire.
Perhaps this political unravelling is the fire that we need to awaken us from our civic stupor. It might be a scary thing, but not necessarily a bad thing. A government by the people for the people means it is time that we become active and (positive) participants in the building of our country. We can’t afford to be passive bystanders anymore, completely shirking our power to a few people while we mind our private business. Unless we want to wake up one day and find we no longer have a country.
We have to be visible and make our voices heard. I am preaching to myself and other african women in particular, for we are always the grass that suffers most brutally when self-made beasts tussle for power and control. We have been too complacent and others continue to make decisions for us without us.
Our participation in a democracy does not need us to be card carrying members of any political party or faction. The constitution makes provision for all of us to be heard. I am not prescriptive on how our participation should look like. We can write, protest, start our own movements, build our own schools, pray or vote differently. One thing is sure, we can’t support any person, party, institutions or policies that undermines the value and quality of our lives or the future of our country.
I believe that everyone who claims to represent people should be subject to scrutiny and accountability. We will continue to be the suffering grass, trampled by the weight of the elephants if we don’t claim our place and role in society. “it always looks impossible, until it is done”
God bless Africa!